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Schumer, Zeldin agree to work together for East End

WASHINGTON -- Lee Zeldin, the incoming Republican congressman for Long Island's East End, met Tuesday with New York's senior senator, Charles Schumer, for a talk about local projects and support for Israel, but not their many policy differences.

Zeldin, 34, in Washington for new-member orientation, was greeted with a typed-out list of key federal projects in his district by Schumer, 63, who won his first term in Congress the year Zeldin was born in 1980.

"I've told the congressman that I have a great working relationship with [Rep.] Peter King (R-Seaford) so partisanship is no problem," said Schumer, as they sat in chairs side by side in a parlor in Schumer's office.

"So we'll work together," Schumer said. "Once the election is over, that's that."

Zeldin, who must defend his seat in 2016, said, "In these next two years in office, which is my first term in office, it's important that we are able to work together to deliver results for Long Islanders."

Schumer's list included bolstering the shorelines from Fire Island to Montauk Point against storms, rerouting helicopter traffic, continuing federal funding for Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University, and ensuring superstorm Sandy aid gets to those in need.

They sidestepped questions about immigration and health care, but agreed on their strong support for Israel.

On U.S. policy toward Israel, Zeldin said, "I would be shocked to find any daylight between myself and the senator."

They criticized President Barack Obama's dealings with Iran and treatment of the state of Israel, and condemned Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over Tuesday's deadly synagogue attack in Israel.

But coming off almost four years in the State Senate in Albany, Zeldin is still getting to know Washington, the New York delegation and the news media.

Zeldin, who will be the only Jewish Republican in Congress, sought to change the impression left by an article Tuesday portraying him as critical of the level of support for Israel by New York's five Jewish Democrats in Congress, particularly Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx), a staunch Israel backer.

Zeldin said, "With regards to Congressman Engel, I would expect any disagreements to more likely be on issues related to health care and budgets than I would with regards to many of these U.S.-Israel challenges."

Though he hadn't met Engel, Zeldin said, "It turns out we are related through marriage -- my aunt is his first cousin."

Engel did not respond to a request for comment.

Zeldin also showed he has something to learn about Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who he said called to congratulate him on his victory over Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton).

"Is he actually Jewish, or just has the last name? Is Steve Israel Jewish?" Zeldin asked.

"I think so," Schumer said.

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